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Antithetical ArtsOn the Ancient Quarrel Between Literature and Music$
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Peter Kivy

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780199562800

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: May 2009

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199562800.001.0001

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The Failure of Formalism and the Failure of its Foes

The Failure of Formalism and the Failure of its Foes

Chapter:
(p.179) 8 The Failure of Formalism and the Failure of its Foes
Source:
Antithetical Arts
Author(s):

Peter Kivy (Contributor Webpage)

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199562800.003.0008

This chapter explores the possibility of the kinds of narrative interpretation put on absolute music by Robinson, Maus, and Newcomb being offered as attempts to provide an explanation for the interest and pleasure that we take in absolute music. It argues that if they are so offered, they fail in their purpose. But one thing those failed answers to the failure of formalism have right, if indeed they were so intended: formalism's defenders have failed to give an adequate explanation for the deep interest and pleasure that absolute music, in the Western canon, provides to its devotees — interest and pleasure to such a degree that it emboldens them to put the masterpieces of the canon alongside those masterpieces of the great poets, novelists, painters, and sculptors, from antiquity to the present.

Keywords:   musical formalism, absolute music, Plato, philosophy, representation, Schopenhauer, Artistotle

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